From a dark celluloid tomb, buried and lost in 1980 comes this dusty corpse of a horror movie. A banal, predictable plot, revealed at a shambling feet-dragging pace is too frustrating, and stuffed with predictable twists.
However, the film is not totally devoid of life: the music by Claude Bolling is powerful and well-preserved, and the cinematography is one of the films most redeeming features - capturing some of the splendour in the wind-swept dunes and impressive ruins of Egypt. And, of course, another highlight is the attractive Stephanie Zimbalist as Margaret Corbeck, daughter of her obsessive archaeological father, played by Charleton Heston.
The story begins amongst the rocky valleys of Egypt in the early 60's. Archaeologist Matthew Corbeck (Charleton Heston) and his assistant Jane (Susannah York) are on the brink of discovering the tomb of a lost Queen Kara. This evil Royal was reputed to have killed her own father, and self-proclaimed to have had the ability to reincarnate herself.
Once they locate her tomb and enthusiastically begin the excavation, Matthew's seven-month pregnant wife, Anne, falls into a seemingly inexplicable coma. Finding her when he returns home, Matt rushes her into Cairo but, feeling useless by her side in the hospital, heads back out into the desert to complete his diggings.
His wife's condition worsens and, in her husbands absence, the doctors decide to remove the child by Caeserian section. The child is still-born. However, as Matthew, in the desert, finds and opens the coffin of Kara, the stale air seems to breathe life into his dead daughter.
From that moment on, anyone who attempts to prevent Kara's rebirth is met with a mysterious and gruesomely fatal accident.
Prophetic from the outset: eclipses and curses - everything about this movie points to the inevitable tragedy. But do not expect re-animated mummies. The movies entire focus is upon the re-awakening of the Egyptian Queen, Kara, and seems to end just as it gets interesting, like an unsatisfying mirage!
Camera-work throughout is generally okay, but like most problems with this movie, is over-done and uses some inappropriate angles. One scene comes to mind, where Heston is talking but the camera is so low that we cannot see his mouth at all and, unfortunately, his staring, watery eyes do little to convey his burning dilemma.
It is worth noting that this movie is based on a Bram Stoker novel, The Jewel of the Seven Stars, but he will probably be turning restlessly in his grave knowing that Universal have resurrected this dessicated, rotting corpse from it's dusty tomb - Bram will want you to read his book instead!
The transfer is very clear in it's 2.35:1 presentation, with only the occasional hair and dust flecks apparent. The colour is well-saturated, but suffers from the inevitable blueing of Technicolor film from this era. Black levels and contrast are quite decent.
Night scenes are shot under a blue filter, and this has an unfortunate tendancy to cause blue hazing around the white clothing. However, the many scenes shot at dusk, especially those in Egypt, are excellent.
The Audio is in Dolby 2.0 Stereo, and doesn't use the centre channel at all. This is okay, as it allows the focus to move, but an eerie surround track would have been well received - especially within the crypt. The music score provided by Claude Bolling is powerful, but has a tendency to be over-loud in an attempt to enforce drama.
Unlike the lavish tombs of the Egypytians, there are no Extras at all contained within this sarcophagus, and our bare-boned corpse is adorned with only a very simple Scene Selection tool.
In Summary, The Awakening continually shows glimpses of promise, and is spooky enough to be worth a look. However, wrapped in some over-dramatic performances, progressively obscure supernatural accidents, and a dragging plot, this movie cannot invoke the suspense or deep-seated fear that Director Mike Newell wanted us to experience.
Better leave this one buried!